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Command Agriculture lies exposed ….. Zim left with just seven months’ supply of maize

Steven Mahwai

HARARE – Crisis-hit Zimbabwe is left with seven months’ supply of both the staple maize and small grains supply, according to a government minister.

This spells more doom for the impoverished state, which has heavily relied on donor aid for a greater part of the last 19 years. Already, the poverty belt was stretched by a further 16,000 families left in crisis by the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai.

Addressing delegates at the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe Milling Industry extraordinary meeting on grain supply strategy 2019-2020, Land and Agriculture Minister Perrence Shiri, said government would now rely on imports, a move set to be crippled by a critical shortage of foreign currency.

“The current stocks of maize and small grains at GMB stand at 832 156 metric tonnes and at the monthly draw down rate of 120mt, the available grain is sufficient to last about 7 months,” said Shiri in an embarrassing backtrack from government’s earlier gloat that Zimbabwe had enough stocks boosted by the “success of Command Agriculture” programme.

“With the projected below average production, grain imports are inevitable and the magnitude will be determined after the second round Crop and Livestock Assessment.”

Shiri said Government would however, continue releasing maize to millers.

“Government, through Grain Marketing Board will continue releasing maize to millers to ensure consistency in the supply of mealie meal and most importantly in the Manicaland Province, which was hard hit by Cyclone Idai,” said Mr Shiri, who desperately urged the milling industry to enter into contract farming with the farming community to ensure timely access to agricultural inputs as well as consistency in the production of maize.

Shiri said Government would make plans to facilitate grain importation.

“I would like to assure you that as part of government’s mandate to ensure food and nutrition security, plans will be constituted to facilitate grain importation,” said the former Airforce of Zimbabwe Commander, adding the country’s wheat supply was also in dire straits, as it had reached critically low levels with stock only sufficient for a month.

Addressing the same meeting, Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndhlovu said government was aware of the critical and sensitive nature of the wheat situation.

“We are quite aware of the critical and sensitive nature of our wheat situation. I had to make sure I meet the Reserve Bank Governor yesterday,” said Ndhlovu.

“We have agreed in principle that urgent payment has to be made, I have agreed with the Governor. Unfortunately, in terms of the rate at which the payment will be made, we have made recommendations but we have to await for approval.

“The ministry of finance was not part of our meeting so it has to go through processes but we are quite aware also of the price sensitivity of the commodity so we expect that maybe by Monday we should be advised of the position and I certainly hope payment will be made.”

He commended millers’ initiative of supporting farmers saying it was a critical intervention that was needed.

“I believe that the initiative by millers to support farmers is a commendable and critical intervention of the kind that we need at this point. Only through close cooperation between the manufactures of primary products and the users of these products can we ensure and achieve self-sustenance. I want to implore other players in the private sector to take a leaf from this and consider various forms of integration and collaboration.”

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